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Here’s another installment of the Magic Basketball Mailbag.
If the Orlando Magic can’t obtain a top star, why not build one up and invest time into Marcin Gortat or Ryan Anderson to be our power forward in the starting line up? They both have size.
Against the elite teams in the NBA, which — for now — includes the Los Angeles Lakers, the Miami Heat, and the Boston Celtics, it makes little sense for the Orlando Magic to start either Ryan Anderson or Marcin Gortat at power forward. The main problem, more than anything else, is that Rashard Lewis would start at the small forward position and that would mean he’d have to defend players like LeBron James, Paul Pierce, and others. At small forward, Lewis doesn’t have the lateral quickness to keep players in front of him or the speed to chase them on the perimeter. This isn’t new, by the way. Lewis dealt with the same issues when he played with the Seattle SuperSonics.
There’s no question that Anderson, more so than Gortat, would be able to start at power forward for the Magic because he brings some of the same skills to the table as Lewis does, given their roles as stretch fours. However, the problem is that Anderson is not as good of a defender at power forward compared to Lewis. Not right now, at least. Against players like Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol, and others, it’s a moot point. However, the issue of Lewis defending small forwards doesn’t go away. In Gortat’s case, he’d be able to defend and rebound the basketball. Yet Gortat’s inability to spread the floor and be a threat to score would undermine Orlando’s offense. Gortat at the power forward position, playing alongside Dwight Howard, is an alignment that works in spurts but that’s it. And that’s when Lewis is out of the lineup, too.
One of the underrated aspects of Lewis’ skill-set is that he is able to defend power forwards effectively, given that they remain stationary more often than not and usually ply their trade on the low block. As such, most of Lewis’ weaknesses defensively are masked since all he has to do is use his strength and wingspan to combat power forwards. And if worse comes to worse, Lewis also has Howard there immediately on the weak-side to help him when necessary. People like to criticize Lewis for not playing well offensively in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics, but they conveniently forget that he did a good job of keeping Kevin Garnett in check in the series. This is after Garnett destroyed Antawn Jamison in the previous round, so the argument that Lewis is a defensive liability against power forwards doesn’t carry much weight. Yes, Lewis struggles against the Gasol’s of the NBA but he is not alone in that regard.
Ultimately, the dilemma is that Lewis is unable to defend small forwards and can’t benefit from Howard’s ability to erase his mistakes as much. The problems on defense would be exacerbated if Anderson started because he isn’t as good of a defender at power forward as Lewis is. If Gortat was inserted in the lineup, even though he would be able to provide a boost for Orlando defensively and rebounding-wise, the offense would sputter. Lewis’ role on offense at small forward and some of the advantages he’d have at the position would be almost entirely nullified with all the issues that were mentioned. Plus, Lewis would be defended by someone like Artest that can neutralize him on the perimeter or the low post rather than, say, Bosh. All in all, there’s too many “cons” in this alignment against the teams that matter for the Magic.
In this scenario, Lewis is better off staying at power forward.
Most likely scenario: Orlando makes a trade before the season, at the deadline, or not at all (this year)?
It’s looking more likely that the Orlando Magic will make a trade, if they do, at or before the deadline during the regular season. By that time, general manager Otis Smith will be able to see where the Magic stand in comparison to their competition and he can decide whether or not something needs to change with the roster. Smith didn’t pull off a deal last year but you have to figure that with some of the assets he has at his disposal, he may be open to making a move if necessary.
What are the chances the Magic make a deal by moving a large contract? i.e. Gortat, Carter, Lewis, etc.
Tough to speculate on an answer.
Vince Carter and Marcin Gortat are movable assets for various reasons — Carter has an expiring contract and Gortat is a starting-caliber center that is valued by many teams in the league. Lewis, however, is untradable because he has two years guaranteed left on his deal ($19.5 million and $21 million, respectively). The chances of a trade occurring depend on a number of variables. If a deal does happen, it probably won’t take place until the season is underway.
Thanks for the questions!
If you have a question for the mailbag, you can reach me at eddy.rivera7 [at] gmail [dot] com